Application of Social, Economic, and Behavioral Science to Water Resources Prediction

Enhanced Forecast Design Through Experimental Gaming and Social Impact Assessment of Connected River and Floodplains
Regular exchange of water between rivers and connected floodplains offers nature-based floodwater storage to mitigate downstream flooding impacts and risks to lives, property and infrastructure. However, many floodplains are modified, which limits hydrologic connectivity and exacerbates the impacts of floods downstream (Scott et al., 2019). Growing awareness of the importance of floodplain functioning for climate resilience has led to initiatives to remove barriers, restore channel and floodplain form, and set aside conservation easements to allow the perpetuation of natural process (Remo et al., 2012). Currently, stakeholders engaged in natural resource projects (e.g., government or non-government environmental groups) lack a way to prioritize investment of limited resources or mechanisms to evaluate benefits. In part, this limitation is due to two things: underdeveloped models of connectivity in flood plains, and simplistic social-ecological impact assessments that fail to appreciate the full range of ecosystem services proffered by highly connected river and floodplains. Because rivers and floodplain processes are inherently linked to the upstream watershed, and influence downstream communities, planning tools must be at multi-level scales, especially to find synergies among green infrastructure projects (Seddon et al 2020). The NWM provides an ideal framework to plan and evaluate these impacts because of its CONUS coverage and provision of hydrograph predictions, including in ungauged basins. Ecosystem services frameworks are increasingly being used to calculate social and ecological costs to enhance forecast design and stakeholder use, including by NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management Digital Coast program. This project will broaden the capacity for forecast design by better understanding how communities use this information. Ultimately, we will develop a CIROH Forecast Design Center to explore the heterogeneity of risk perception and behavior, and decision heuristics relative to water hazard mitigation that can be integrated into NWM products.